Preview :: The Carboard Kitchen

March 14th 2012

Alexandra Clapham and Penelope Benton, ‘Speaking of Toast, The Cardboard Kitchen’, 2012.

In the past, Alexandra Clapham and Penelope Benton have worked both together and separately to create fantastical experiences out of everyday materials and interactions, with a particular penchant for the edible. In their latest project Speaking of Toast, The Cardboard Kitchen, they turn Eastern Bloc Gallery into a space for sharing conversation, cooking techniques and deliciousness.

FBI: A two-week home-made banquet, I’m coming to that! But, wait, is it food? Or is it, you know, representations of food?

Penelope Benton: Yes yes it’s edible food. Alex and I have been hosting a number of tea and dinner parties as installations, first separately and in the past year as joint projects. They have all been about creating food and giving it to people that we have invited to join us. The act of making and giving is core to this practice. By placing the table of guests as an installation in a gallery context there is an evoked exclusivity, which we exaggerate with costuming and decadent sets. At the end of last year we started to introduce the idea of inviting ‘strangers’ to join the table to share meals and conversation with our selected guests in a project we did with the Glitter Militia as part of The Rocks Village Bizarre. In a different way for us, the process of opening this up was really rewarding, and has inspired this new project. The Cardboard Kitchen is about making a really simple accessible space and giving really simple, yet delicious food to anyone who comes in.

You’ve got four different sessions (a Friday night banquet, Saturday all day breakfast, and the following week Friday long lunch Saturday pot luck), are these things that will happen in and around the exhibition or will they transform it?

P: Mmmm these sessions are the exhibition.

Alex Clapham: It’s also an education project in cooking. We will be making some things we don’t know how to make yet and I guess the audience can be the judge if it works or not.

What should we bring?

P: Hunger. And maybe some good kitchen conversation.

A: Recipes. You can also teach us something.

You mention “the spirit of relational art” in your blurb, so I thought I might pull a little quote from Bourriard’s Relational Aesthetics describing relational art as: “an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interaction and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space.”

What is your interest in the realm of human interaction as a space for art, and what do you think is the function of artists within it? (I.E. can’t we just go to book club and call it relational art?)

A: When creating an installation in any form, the artist creates a space that is dependent on the viewer inhabiting that space to some extent. The viewer is therefore an integral part of the work. One could say, without the audience the space itself would, in theory, not exist. Relational Art enables the viewer to involve themselves in an action and in this case (as is typical), the action is something that is of a ‘real life’ function. As artists, our practice highlights the act of eating as a personal and communal action. In our past collaborations we have put ourselves and our invited guests in the spotlight and find that the audience stays out of this space until we invite them to eat to which then they respond most graciously. The communal act of eating is what makes this relational.

You could call a book club art, but it is not necessarily relational art, as although most people can relate to the idea of a book club, unless the audience has read the book, they cannot be directly involved.

P: That said of course there’s probably an argument that says it can be relational art. Come to the show, we can talk about it over a meal.

Making a kitchen out of refuse seems like a good solution to a couple of problems, namely useable things making up landfill and perhaps people not having access to a kitchen, do you have any plans to expand this project into the community?

P: Yes we are planning an extension of the Cardboard Kitchen as part of Tiny Stadiums in early June.

A. That’s a really good point and I would say that if people would like to use this kitchen I’d be up for it, also exchange of knowledge in cooking is something that often comes out of these works.

Who is the best cook out of you two?

P: Alex of course.

A: I am but I worked as a cook for 8 years


What: ‘Speaking of Toast, The Cardboard Kitchen’

Who: Alexandra Clapham and Penelope Benton

Where: Eastern Bloc Gallery, 138 Evans St, Rozelle, NSW

When: Friday 16th March, 6-8 opening night banquet

Saturday 17 March, 11am-3pm all day breakfast

Friday 23 March, 12-3pm long lunch

Saturday 24 March, 11am-3pm pot luck


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